Hollywood Sign's 1970s Rebuild: Celebrities Unite to Save It

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By the late 1970’s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce determined that the Sign required a complete rebuilding – carrying a price tag of a quarter million dollars. Which in today’s current rate of inflation is worth $1.2 million! Thankfully, some of showbiz’s biggest names came to the rescue.

On June 14, rock star Alice Cooper pledged $27,700 to rebuild the third “O” in honor of Groucho Marx. Following Cooper’s announcement, Warner Bros. Records announced they would also contribute $27,700, for the replacement of the second “O.” On June 29, Hugh Hefner hosted a $150-perperson, star-studded party at the Playboy mansion. The highlight of the event was Andy Williams’ announcement that he would pitch in $27,700 to replace the “W.” As a token of appreciation, Chamber of Commerce President Jack Foreman announced that $27,700 of the $45,000 raised at the party would be used to replace the “Y” and the new letter would be dedicated to Hefner. The week following the Playboy party saw a flurry of participation in the “Save The Sign” campaign. Gene Autry and KTLA announced their contribution of $27,700 for the second “L.” Terrance Donnelly, publisher of the Hollywood Independent newspaper, announced a donation of $27,700 for the “H,” and Dennis Lidtke, of Gribbitt Graphics, donated $27,000 for the “D.” By mid-July only two letters remained to be sponsored. Italian movie producer Giovanni Mazza, who was moving his production company to the United States, took care of the first “O” with his $27,700 donation. And Les Kelley, founder of the Kelley Blue Book, once again came to the Sign’s rescue by donating $27,700 for the first “L.” Thanks to the help of these donors, the Sign was poised for its overhaul. The old Sign was scrapped in August ’78, and yes, for three lonely months Hollywood had no Sign. 194 tons of concrete, enamel and steel later, the Sign was re-born, poised and polished for a new millennium.

The Hollywood Sign Trust is formed

After the old Sign was demolished and while the new Sign was being built, the Hollywood Sign Trust was created and formed in October 1978, one month before the sign was completed in November of that year. According to its mission statement: “The Hollywood Sign Trust is a 501(c)3 nonprofit trust formed on October 7, 1978, with the express purposes of repairing, maintaining, refurbishing, and providing capital improvements to the Hollywood Sign or related thereto for the benefit of the public at large and so as to help preserve and maintain the image of Hollywood as the Worldwide Center of Motion Pictures and Cinema Arts; and shall be operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes.”

Hugh Hefner was a fan and supporter of the Hollywood Sign. In 1977 he campaigned and helped to raise donations to rebuild the Sign in 1978.

Nine generous donations (pledges of $27,700 for each letter) made the 1978 rebuild of the Sign possible.